For those of us with unhealthy relationships with professional sports – words like obsessive, maniacal, hypertension, and extreme superstition come to mind – like myself, particularly Chiefs fans in 2021, you can relate to the fact that the team has induced major emotional and psychological reactions this season. I’m thinking of a junior high science fair where you’ve constructed the most badass volcano that your town has ever seen. In no way is it like the other 6 at the science fair this year, nor like the previous 300 that have been built in the past. This one is different. You get to the big day and you’re all set. The teacher is there, the judges, the principal, your mom, your crush is right across the way – it’s go time. The dry ice is working perfectly, now it’s time for the eruption. But it doesn’t erupt. You tinker with it a little bit, get some of the lava to boil out, but it just won’t do what it’s supposed to do. In a nutshell, that’s the 2021 season so far. Luckily for us, they’re not handing out ribbons (Lombardi’s) just yet, and there is time for the Chiefs to erupt, specifically on offense.
This week, as I said in the Titans game recap, has been one of reflection. In that reflection time I’ve tried to sum up my feelings on each game with tiny capsules of emotions that I felt after each week. Below are my summaries, for your entertainment (and commiseration)
Week 1 vs. Cleveland – The feeling you get when you beat your younger sibling at a sport for the 100th time. Not the greatest, but a win is a win.
Week 2 vs. Baltimore – The feeling you get when the last spot on a scratch off ticket makes it a complete loss. Had it the whole way, but just lost it at the end. There’s always next time.
Week 3 vs. Chargers – The feeling you get when Murphy’s Law shows up and smacks you in the face one day. Turnovers. Defense can’t stop anyone. You knew it was going to go bad from the first play, but we still almost won so you’re still hopeful.
Week 4 vs. Philly – The feeling you get when your girlfriend says she wants to take a break, but then texts you at 10 PM and just says “You up?”
Week 5 vs. Buffalo – That feeling you get when you watch someone break into your house and trash it on a security camera, but can’t do anything about it.
Week 6 vs. WFT – That feeling you get when a sales presentation goes horribly wrong at the beginning, but someone cracks a joke in the middle of it, the tides turn, and you close the deal anyway.
Week 7 vs. Tennessee – That feeling you get when you’re out with a group of friends having dinner and drinks, you offer to pay for the tab, and your credit card gets declined. You’re sitting there waiting for the potential fraud alert to pop up, but deep down you know how you got to this outcome.
Mostly relatable scenarios for most readers, and for me indicative of the feelings I had watching each of the games this season so far. The feeling I’d hope to achieve tonight would be the feeling you get when you try to start your car, and the starter has been acting up. You crank it once. Crank it twice. Then all of a sudden…it turns over, and the car runs like a dream for the rest of the time you own it.
Yesterday’s clate of games was a wild one – Bucs lose, Chargers lose both good things in the Kingdom. Dallas’ backup QB is still a better option than Kirk Cousins in prime time. But let’s talk about Thursday’s NFC heavyweight. The Thursday night affair was a tightly contested matchup, and any time you have a walkoff pick on the final drive of the game it’s exciting, but I had an interesting question posed to me over the weekend. One of my best friends, shout out Mitch, sent me the below screenshot of A-Rodg and Kyler Murray’s stat lines from Thursday and asked “If Mahomes had either of these lines, how much would the Chiefs lose by?” :
My response was minimum 17. Say what you want about either player, they’re both great, but this should give the average football fan a little context behind exactly how much Patrick Mahomes individual performance means to the Chiefs team output vs. other great QBs. And we wonder why the guy looks uncomfortable?
Before we get to this week’s game against the Giants, we’ll address the elephant in the room. As everyone probably knows by now, Friday night there was an Instagram account that posted some negative content about some existing Chiefs players. One of which was Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens and teammate Tyrann Mathieu responded in the comments of this post, and I won’t go into detail with what was said. Everyone has read this by now, and I am not breaking any news or willing to provide any more of a spotlight to this subject matter. Mathieu addressed the comments, apologized, and moved on, and so should we. He is a highly emotional player, on and off the field, and part of what makes him great for the Chiefs is also what makes him a risk in situations like that. It happened, he rallied around his teammate, and we’re moving on. This did prompt an interesting thought for me. There’s a debate raging right now in NBA circles about which players could play in competing eras. Michael Jordan went on record last week saying that only LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki from today’s generation could compete in the 80’s-90’s NBA. JJ Redick then shot back on his podcast saying that any player in today’s NBA could compete in the 60’s, 70’s, etc because of sheer athletic ability. Now, I am one of the biggest MJ fans on the planet. As I sit here typing this, a canvas print of his last shot against Utah in the 1998 Finals Game 6 hangs above my computer screen, a next door neighbor to an Arrowhead Stadium panorama and an Arrowhead Stadium architectural blueprint. But what MJ isn’t considering is that today’s athletes aren’t just having to deal with the Sam Smith’s, Jay Mariotti’s, and Skip Bayless’s of the world. They’re having to deal with every individual who has a phone or computer, and the ability to update a social media page, that think their opinion matters. Everyone has a voice now, and everything is available at the drop of a hat to anyone that wants to seek it. I’m not obtuse enough to realize that I’m one of the internet folks capitalizing off of this open forum benefit, but I’m also not putting negative content out there to try to amass followers, likes, and get under the skin of the athletes I love rooting for. The bandwagon Chiefs fans have become a problem, particularly when they know there’s a chance they could get broadcast out to national media outlets because the team is so highly covered. I see you, but I do not respect you or your tactics. I’ll leave it at that.
On to the game. This is a game that, in normal circumstances (meaning Chiefs sitting at 5-2 or 6-1) I would be broadcasting from the highest peak I could find that it’s a trap. Coming off of a draining game against Tennessee, Green Bay is already warming up the engines for their trip to KC (planes actually fueld with grease from Aaron Rodgers’ atrocious hair), it would be easy to overlook the woeful Giants. New York comes in with a 2-5 record, and really have only showed life against Carolina, the Saints (bad Jameis Saints), and the WFT on Thursday Night Football in week 2. Outside of those contests, you have blowout losses to Dallas and the Rams, and games that I forgot happened against Atlanta and Denver. All of this to say – the Giants have been underwhelming in 2021. But, so have the Chiefs. The difference in talent here is pretty broad, and there are strengths matching up against strengths on both sides of the field. Lets’ dive in to 3 key matchups :
Giants pass rush vs. Chiefs offensive line :
The Giants lit Carolina up last weekend. The G men carded 6 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits on the way to getting Sam Darnold benched, and beating the once 3-0 Panthers by a score of 25-3. The score of this game at one point was literally 2-3, which I had never seen before in football. So how’d they do it? Azeez Ojulari provided pressure at the second level with 2.5 sacks, and Leonard Williams – one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL – provided pressure up the middle of the defensive front with 1.5 sacks of his own. Ojulari will be a team approach to blocking, but one could assume that a combination of Creed Humphrey/Joe Thuney/Trey Smith will shoulder the responsibility of taking care of Mr. Williams on Monday night. The good news for Chiefs fans is that the trio of Humphrey/Thuney/Smith has been nothing short of spectacular for KC this season, without a doubt showing as the highlight of their reconstructed offensive line. If those three can keep Williams at least contained, KC’s offense should get back on track.
Giants Secondary vs. KC Receivers
Losing Jabrill Peppers is a giant loss for New York. No pun intended. Peppers is not only the leader of the Giants defense from an emotional and motivational standpoint, he’s also arguably their best defensive player on the field. The Giants have talent in the secondary, but they have not been playing up to their abilities as of yet in 2021, ranking 22nd in the league in passing TD’s allowed. While the Chiefs are not much better, the Giants passing attack is no where near the product that KC has put on the field this season. Despite the outcome of the Tennessee game, KC still ranks 3rd in the league offensively this season, and when they can keep defenders off of Mahomes good things generally happen. Without Peppers, it will be extremely difficult for the Giants to contain Travis Kelce, who should have a big day against the G Men.
Chiefs Pass Rush vs. Giants Offensive Line
When Andrew Thomas (LT) went on the IR on October 19, he was the third Giants starting offensive lineman to fall since the beginning of the season. With only 2 day 1 starters on the field, and the Chiefs finally fielding a (mostly) healthy defensive front for a second consecutive game, this is a prime opportunity for Chris Jones and co to quiet the critics. Jones only has 2 sacks on the season, and Frank Clark has yet to register one. The Giants will be without Kenny Gollday and Saquon Barkley tonight, so that means Danny Dimes targets are not premier, and he could have trouble finding open receivers. If he holds onto the ball too long, and we keep him in the pocket, it could be a long night for Mr. Jones.
It’s odd to think that a game with such high flying talent on one side of the ball will be decided in the trenches, but that is what I’m predicting for this one. The team that gets the most out of their offensive and defensive lines tonight will come out on top. The Chiefs offensive line is healthy and has for the most part been clicking all season, and the defensive line is getting there. I think the Chiefs defense wakes up behind Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu tonight, wreaks some havoc on the Giants in the form of sacks and turnovers, and gives Mahomes some breathing room where he doesn’t feel like he has to be picture perfect every drive.
Chiefs 34, Giants 13